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Yet another night on the doors
on 5 September 2010
Two Stars? Repetitive tales, doesn't deliver what it says it's going to and lacks a certain credibility. These are big claims, but let's go thru them and see if you agree.
First some background. If we think of your stereotypical doorman, he might have the following characteristics: big lad, ex-forces, left school with not a lot to show, something to prove to someone and can handle himself. Mr Sinclair is a nice match. So, what makes him different from the other hundreds, nay, thousands of doormen that have worked in Blackpool and the rest of England over the years? Not much. Apart from maybe the amount of time he spent doing it and the fact he's wrote a book about it.
The book repeats the same four stores over and over again. These are:
1) Doors: group of lads starts trouble in the club/pub or kick-off while trying to get in...resulting in them getting battered. Note: slight variations were they hear from another doorman, who usually comes `running over' (no mobile phones back then) that they need help.
2) Comeback: after one of the above incidences occurs, a bigger than the original group returns, a fight ensues, Mr Sinclair groups wins.
3) Ambush: similar to (1), something happens, Mr Sinclair jumps in a car with a group of lads and go looking for the target group. They find them, jump them and Mr Sinclair groups wins.
4) Boxing Match: Mr Sinclair sparred (and lost) with Sugar Ray Leonard as part of an exhibition match whilst working on the QE2. So we're treated to tales of him and his mates going to watch boxing matches in the US. It's simply not relevant to the main premise of the book and feels like padding.
Template stories (1) thru (3) usually involve some police involvement. Frankly, I'm pretty sure that anyone working in the same job for that many years could have wrote a similar account. The difference here is simply that Mr Sinclair has put pen to paper.
Additionally, the back cover says the book is a `candid insight into the dangerous world of the modern doorman'. Stop! Modern Doorman? Most of the tales are from the 1980s (photos of these modern doorman show them wearing velvet bowties and jackets). At best, this is at least over a decade ago, at worst it's 30 years ago. Candid and dangerous yes. Modern, no. Mr Sinclair does state several times that things were changing (e.g. licensing laws/hours, drug culture and registered doorman), but he doesn't explore the opportunity to tell us How this affected the job or his behaviour.
Secondly, a certain credibility. Mr Sinclair can handle himself, no doubt what-so-ever. During, what you might call my student years in Preston, I had several nights out in Blackpool (without incident and without knowingly, or otherwise, meeting Mr Sinclair). It's a full on, beer fest. Respect to anyone, Mr Sinclair included, that can deal with that night after night. So what's the problem? Firstly, he says (pg69) doing favours (like collecting money, threats, etc) is likely to land you in a lot of trouble; basically don't do it, it's not smart. Yet the book is littered with minor stories of him doing exactly that.
Finally, following template story number (3), they tool up and make their way to Preston's Red Lion pub (pg 102) and just "walked in". They left "because they didn't innocent people to get hurt" (pg 103). A few things here. IF, Mr Sinclair knew his game he'd have known about this pub's clientele and reputation before his "jaw dropping" experience at the place being packed with "over one hundred black men". As for just walking in, I doubt it. Any unknown (white, or otherwise) face walking in that place would have been reported to the back room before they even spoke to the barwomen. Leaving so "innocent people [didn't] get hurt" seems like a cop out, admittedly, a sensible one. Why not make a statement by shooting up the place? Maybe because they didn't know what to expect and were clearly outnumbered?
And, it's that lack of knowledge that makes me in part wonder about the credibility (not the truthfulness) of these tales. He was never running the whole of Blackpool's door business. Agreed, he worked on some big doors, but he also worked a lot of clubs favoured by locals (less likely to cause trouble?). Where, for example, was his time at the central and massive Palace nightclub? And ok, he faced down a few local `faces' and plenty of drunken louts, but never anyone unexpected. Where are the tales of (real) hard-men coming to look for him? Those, really intent on doing him some harm or even other door companies trying to take work away from him? None spring to mind from the book.
The bottom line for me is this: a capable, well known and connected man, with a long history of working the doors, but ultimately only part of a bigger system, with tales that anyone working that long in the job would have rightly accumulated.